Celtic’s Kieran Tierney Wouldn’t Be Phased By Juventus Move

According to Scottish media reports, Italian champions Juventus are the latest side to take an interest in Celtic fullback Kieran Tierney.

Now it could make sense to suggest Juve are looking for a new left-back as rumours are growing that PSG are about to complete a deal to bring Alex Sandro from Turin.

Other names that have been linked with the Bianconeri left-back spot have been Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Manchester United’s Italian international Matteo Darmian.

It might seem crazy to some, but I don’t think Tierney’s out of place in a shortlist that would include Marcelo or Darmian.

The Celtic left-back has been in sensational form since Brendan Rodgers took over the Glasgow side in 2016.

At only twenty-one years old, Kieran has met every challenge put in front of him and conquered it.

His performances have been extremely consistent. He’s already one of the best talents in the Scottish Premiership, he’s look strong in most of Celtic’s Champions League games and he’s already shone in a Scotland shirt.

His performances for the Hoops have seen him pick up the Players’ and Writers’ young player of the year awards in each of the last three years. The fullback was also selected in UEFA’s breakthrough team of the year in 2017.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Well as a left-back, Tierney is very diligent defensively, the youngster isn’t scared to put in a tough tackle or two and he can also break forward in marauding runs and join in attacks.

He’s also a very smart performer. He can see what’s going on in front of him and react. That’s why Tierney has been used as a centre-back in a back three and also as a make shift right back for his national team. That defensive versatility, his attitude to give his all and the fact he doesn’t moan about shifting positions would surely interest Juve boss Max Allegri.

Tierney’s aggression and energy are ideal qualities for any big team as it’s a tempo that opposition sides struggle to contain and it can pin them back into their own half. He also possesses an accurate cross and he can also take a powerful shot from distance.

The player is also used to winning things and playing for one of the biggest clubs in his country. Juventus would represent a step-up in terms of their ambitions but the size of the Serie A side wouldn’t phase the young Scot.

Rodgers knows a talent when he sees one having worked with Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling at Liverpool.

The Hoops boss said this about his number sixty-seven:

“Scotland have a huge talent”

“Kieran doesn’t waste his time doing stupid things, he’s concentrated on his football. He lives his life to be a player, he’s not drinking, he trains like an animal every day and wherever you ask him to play he plays it to a high level. Tactically he’s improving all the time and he’s an absolute joy to work with.”

With Cristiano Ronaldo joining the La Vecchia Signora this summer, it could be an ideal time for anyone to join the Turin giants as they’d come in under the radar.

If the Scudetto holders do indeed make a concrete offer for Tierney then they should be prepared to fork out £30m for his talented services. The Celtic daft defender isn’t in a hurry to leave Parkhead and the Scottish Premiership champs will only listen to premium offers, as Everton seemed to find out to their cost in the last month.

If they agree to that figure then they’d be getting an extremely talented young full-back that’s got limitless potential.

Vida Would Offer Liverpool More Defensive Options

 

Liverpool have been linked with Croatian World Cup hero Domagoj Vida.

The defender impressed in Russia during the last month and it’s now believed that Jurgen Klopp is willing to part with £20m to get the Besiktas man ahead of other interested parties like Everton, Atletico Madrid, West Ham United and Sevilla.

Bringing in another centre-back would make sense for the Anfield side.

Joel Matip’s season last term was halted due to injury. Joe Gomez has also suffered from injury issues since he signed for the Reds and could be better playing as a fullback. Ragnar Klavan doesn’t seem to fill anyone with confidence when it comes to defending in a full-time capacity in the Premier League.

Fellow Croat Dejan Lovren has had an inconsistent time of it since he joined Liverpool from Southampton in 2014. Some of his performances at the back have been heroic and others have been ridiculously bad as he’s been caught on the ball, failed to clear away chances and lacked the pace to catch certain pacy attackers.

He greatly improved by having £75m man Virgil van Dijk in beside him since January.

The Croatian international was a key member of both Liverpool’s and Croatia’s squads that went on to the Champions League and World Cup finals.

Yet you still look at Dejan as the weak-link against certain teams or forward lines.

Having another defender in there that can challenge for the centre-back jersey makes sense, especially if injuries take their toll again or Klopp wants to rotate things.

In Van Dijk, Liverpool are lucky that they have a composed defender that can seemingly play with anyone beside him. He’s quick, can win it in the and he can also take the ball out of defence. His style suits so many others that can play at the back.

So you’d imagine that the Dutchman would find it pretty easy to sit in alongside Vida. The Besiktas defender remained calm on most occasions in Russia, the same couldn’t always be said of Lovren who still at times looked nervy.

Having a new core in midfield that includes Fabinho and Naby Keita will also strengthen the team’s spine.

The other bonus is the fact that Vida would also be able to come in and play alongside Lovren, if anything were to happen to Virgil. Domagoj has the pace and footballing brain to cover for Dejan, if his teammates slips up or gets caught out. He’s also versatile enough to fill-in at right back.

Vida is a tough uncompromising defender, who isn’t scared of going in hard for a tackle and he’s also pretty decent in the air.

At the World Cup; he made just under a tackle per game, made on average 5.8 clearances, won 2.3 aerial duels and made 1.7 interceptions. He also managed a goal and an assist during the tournament.

There are a few things that could make the deal unlikely for Liverpool.

The former Dynamo Kiev man only signed for his Turkish employers in January and they could play hardball with the fee. It’s thought that the Super Lig club want £30m for the player.

That’s fairly steep for a player that just started sixteen league games in the last year. You then have to factor in the fact that he’s the same age as Lovren, both being twenty-nine years of age. Klopp might prefer spending the cash on a younger prospect.

The centre-back has also had a few run-ins with previous coaches and Klopp doesn’t have much patience for that kind of thing, just ask Mamadou Sakho.

You also can’t discount that the Liverpool hierarchy might decide that the money could be spent better in other positions, notably on a new goalkeeper. Reports have once again heavily linked the Merseyside giants with a £62m move for AS Roma number one Alisson.

If a deal can be agreed with Besiktas that won’t go much higher than the £20m currently on offer, then I think signing Domagoj Vida could be great for the Liverpool squad as he’d add more strength in depth in the defensive positions.

French Champions Should Make Kylian Mbappe Mr PSG

Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score in a World Cup final.

The young superstar striker was one of the top performers as Les Bleus claimed their second ever World Cup triumph!

His performances, which saw Kylian find the net four times, helped the youngster to claim the Best Young Player trophy when the tournament came to a close.

This summer has also seen the nineteen year old linked with a move away from PSG, with Real Madrid and Manchester United being heavily linked with the exciting forward.

Real in particular are rumoured to be highly interested, they’ve just sold star man Cristiano Ronaldo to Italian champions Juventus in an £88m.

The player himself has delivered a blunt response to those rumours after yesterday’s final:

‘No, I have a contract with PSG, I’m happy with this team.’

‘At the moment, this transfer is absolutely impossible.’

That should be news to the ears of those that run the Ligue 1 champs.

PSG’s Qatari owners have always been keen to have world renowned stars in Paris. That’s why they brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in 2012. They were delighted to have David Beckham at the club, even though it was for just a short period of time and it’s why they shattered the world transfer record last summer bringing in Brazilian superstar Neymar from FC Barcelona.

All of those players have added something to Les Parisiens, even with it was just added media exposure.

In Mbappe, they could have the next big, big thing. The player that could take the one that finally takes Ballon d’Or away from Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.

Now some have speculated that PSG can’t keep hold of both Neymar and Mbappe this summer, if that’s true then I have no doubts that they should punt the Brazilian attacker and keep the homegrown teenage sensation.

Neymar had a sensational scoring season during his debut year in France. He scored twenty-eight times in thirty appearances for his new team.

But in all honesty, I’m not convinced by Neymar’s attitude since his earth shattering move to Paris.

He moaned a lot, fell out with teammates, took responsibility away from his head coach and his season ended in February due to a broken metatarsal bone. Many debated the seriousness of this injury, believing that Neymar wanted to protect his World Cup dreams with Selecao and deliberately put his club career on the back burner.

I feel that the number ten hasn’t been as respectful of Ligue 1 as he should’ve been and that attitude backfired on him with some inconsistent performances at the World Cup.

Now I’m not doubting Neymar’s ability. On his day, he’s terrific and can be unplayable. I just don’t think he was as well rounded at PSG last season as he was at Barca in the previous campaign. It’s funny that he left the Catalan giants to get away from Messi’s shadow, yet arguably he wasn’t as committed to the task in hand of being the best version of Neymar that he could be.

On the other hand you have Mbappe.

The teen came in without as much fanfare but everyone knew it was a huge deal to bring him from AS Monaco. 

He may not have scored as many as Edinson Cavani or Neymar but the forward wasn’t played through the middle. Kylian was asked to play on the right and did so to great effect and never seemed to complain.

His skill-set reminds me of a young Brazilian Ronaldo.

He’s got frightening electric pace, bundles of confidence and a powerful ruthless streak. As Cavani and Neymar squabbled; Mbappe would work hard, scoring twenty-one times and assisting eleven for his teammates.

Another quality he shares with ‘O Fenomeno’ is that he plays the game with a huge smile on his face. He’s just a kid that loves nothing more than getting on the football field and having the ball at his feet.

Mbappe is now a French hero and unlike Messi, Cristiano and Neymar he has already triumphed at a World Cup.

You really get the feeling that he’s just on the cusp of becoming a true great of the game.

Last month as France started their successful summer campaign, Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps stated:

“He’s got great qualities and he was able to show his pace today. I don’t think he sacrificed himself by defending. He just did what the team needed him to do. I’m very happy with his performance today,”

That quote shows you why we already love Kylian Mbappe and why he’ll be world class for years to come. He isn’t selfish or arrogant and will do things for the team as well as shining with his attacking ability.

I’m not saying that PSG have to sell either or between Neymar and his French counterpart. If they chose to sell one of them, then I’d definitely keep the young World Cup winner.

The fans can relate to him and he’ll give you more. He won’t disrupt things and in my opinion will be the star that could finally secure the Ballon d’Or whilst wearing a PSG shirt.

The French club really should make Kylian the face of their club and build their starting eleven around him. He really is that good!

 

Will The Jorginho Signing Spark A Title Challenge From Chelsea?

Chelsea have been busy in the last week.

After sacking former manager Antonio Conte, The Blues have appointed fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri as his replacement. Sarri then spent little time before recruiting midfielder Jorginho from former side Napoli.

The purchase of the Italian international middle-man is significant because it’s seen the London side beat Premier League champions Manchester City to his signature.

While Pep Guardiola and the City moneymen haggled over the midfielder’s price tag, Chelsea were able to agree a £5om fee to bring in the talented star.

The twenty-six year old was seen as one of City’s main transfer targets this summer and now Chelsea have his services for next season. It’s a signal of intent from Sarri and his new side.

Jorginho will be seen as the man that can start Chelsea attacks from deeper positions, much like Cesc Fabregas has done in the recent past.

The Brazilian born man is usually used in the defensive midfield area of the field but like former Italian international Andrea Pirlo he’s more comfortable with the ball at his feet and being deployed as a deep-laying midfielder.

In Serie A last term, the eight time capped player completed 89% of his passes. According to OptaJoe, Jorginho completed 2860 passes in his thirty-three games in the Italian top flight and that was more than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues.

Through his vision and passing ability, the midfielder can dictate the game’s tempo and imposing his style on the game.

As the Partenopei succeed in becoming challengers in Serie A, twenty-five year old Jorginho has been one of their main stars. Everything seems to go through him as he gains the most touches of the ball and keeps the game ticking over with his high volume of passes.

Obviously having previously worked with Sarri at Napoli will be advantageous for the club as the manager will know exactly where to play Jorginho and how to get the best out of him.

If Chelsea are to challenge for the Premier League title next season, then Jorginho could be vital. But there’s another issue that could dictate the success or lack of success for The Blues in the next campaign and that’s the other transfer business that they do over the next few weeks.

The Stamford Bridge side have already been linked with other Serie A talent like Gonzalo Higuain, Alisson and Daniele Rugani.

But it could be the possible outgoings that stop a potential title bid.

Eden Hazard has been the club’s star player in recent years, yet his future seems to be up in the air with the Belgian forward recently saying:

“After six wonderful years at Chelsea, it might be time to discover something different. I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision — if they want to let me go. You know my preferred destination,”

That quote suggests that the maverick forward could be ready for a change and he’s hinting at a move to long time admirers Real Madrid, who are currently looking for a Cristiano Ronaldo replacement. If Chelsea were to lose Hazard then that could be disastrous for any title challenge.

You also have other influential current Chelsea players like N’Golo Kante, Thibaut Courtois and Willian that have been linked with moves away from the club.

As I’ve said already, Jorginho could be a stunning signing for Chelsea but he’ll be better if he’s playing alongside Kante in the engine room and has Hazard and Willian playing in front of him!

The next few weeks of the transfer window could determine what chance Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho have in making a real impact in the English top flight in the next year.

Could Felipe Anderson Become West Ham’s New Di Canio Or Payet?

West Ham United have smashed their transfer record by signing Brazilian attacker Felipe Anderson in an initial £36m deal from Lazio, a fee which could rise to £41.5m.

The new signing has set himself some pretty impressive goals:

“West Ham is a club with a lot of tradition. Lots of great players have played here, like Bobby Moore, Carlos Tevez and Di Canio,” 

“I’m aiming big. Who knows, maybe I could hit their heights and be a legend here too. I’m really happy to be here. It’s a dream come true.”

In Anderson, The Hammers have signed an extremely creative talent and a maverick who could follow in the footsteps of Paulo Di Canio and Dimitri Payet.

Since arriving in Rome in 2013, Felipe has scored twenty-five Serie A goals and created twenty-seven assists for Lazio teammates. During the last campaign the Brazilian capped player scored seven and had ten assists in twenty-eight appearances in Serie A and the Europa League.

The attacking midfielder has been linked with Manchester United, PSG and Chelsea in the past but it’s West Ham that have finally moved and taken him away from The Eternal City.

The above tweet from Italian football expert Adam Digby probably shows us why the bigger sides have decided not to snap up the player.

Yet that hit or miss type of talent has went to London before now and shone for a Hammers jersey.

Both Di Canio and Payet had similar reputations before they joined West Ham and the home support fell in love with their skill, flamboyance and their ability to change games. The Irons fans will forgive certain players certain shortcomings, like defensive frailties, if they show a bit of desire and creative tendencies that will get the support off their seats.

Players love to be adored and that’s why the likes of Carlos Tevez, Di Canio and Payet were able to excel at West Ham. They knew the fans would back them as long as they were being entertained.

Anderson is a very versatile star and can play on either wing or in the hole behind the main striker(s). He likes to take the direct route, running at considerable pace and dribbling past opponents. He can also pull off the tricks that commit opponents before he skips beyond them.

The twenty-five year old has a keen eye for a defence splitting pass or he can take an effort from distance.

It will be interesting to see how new Hammers’ boss Manuel Pellegrini uses the Brazilian. The Chilean gaffer will also have to be on hand to help his new signing settle into the Premier League style.

West Ham Utd have been busy this summer. They’ve brought in Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Issa Diop, Jack Wilshere, Ryan Fredericks and Andriy Yarmolenko and these are players that definitely strengthen the Irons squad but for me Felipe Anderson should be the jewel in the crown!

Congrats to West Ham United on swooping in and getting a maverick talent. Let’s hope Felipe Anderson can be that golden man that gets the supporters on their feet at the London Stadium.

Can Resilient Croatia Actually Win This World Cup?

With a population of just four million and a national football team that’s been playing competitive football for just twenty-four years, Croatia are punching above their weight as they play in their first ever World Cup final later today.

Yet we shouldn’t be completely surprised as many of us pick them as dark horses in whatever tournament we see them in.

In their first qualifying campaign for a major finals, the Croats topped their group as they headed to Euro 96. International giants Italy were in second place due to Croatia’s superior goal difference. In the tournament it’s self they reached the quarter-finals with a wonderful Davor Suker lob over Denmark’s Peter Schmeichel announcing the Vatreni onto the world footballing scene.

The small Balkan country then qualified for their first World Cup at France 98.

They once again navigated themselves out of the group stages. In the second round they managed to produce a narrow victory over Romania. In the quarters Croatia stunned Germany with a 3-0 victory. That stupendous triumph took them into the semi-final, where they had to face hosts France. The Croatian side took the lead but it was short lived and a brace from French fullback Lillian Thuram was enough to see the French go to the final and eventually win their first World Cup trophy.

Croatia would end that campaign by winning the third placed play-off and Suker also won the Golden Boot award after scoring six goals, beating the likes of Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and Christian Vieri to the accolade.

From that moment on the footballing world always sat up an took notice of Croatia. They’ve always produced strong defenders, technically gifted stars and reliable goal-scorers. This squad still has players that possess those attributes.

The main thing, that I believe this squad has, is togetherness and resilience.

It might seem strange to say togetherness considering striker Nikola Kalinic left the squad after he was sent home because he refused to come onto the pitch as a substitute in their opening group game but the Croatian side have seemed stronger after that incident.

The team battle as one and fight for the badge. They have each others backs and protect their star players.

They’ve shown tremendous spirit and hunger throughout the tournament. They’ve also fought extremely hard to get to this final.

In each of the knockout games, Croatia have comeback from a goal down to win the game by the end of extra-time or after a penalty shoot-out.

No one gave them a chance when they faced Argentina in the group stages, yet they recorded a fantastic 3-0 win.

Against England, people stated that Croatia wouldn’t have the legs to compete especially if it went into extra-time again. Of course the English side took an early lead and it did go into extra-time. Yet it was during the second-half and in the added periods that Croatia took the game by the scruff of the neck and outfought their opponents.

I think people underestimated the experience within the Croatian squad.

When they needed to relieve some of the pressure at the back, they’d give the ball to Luka Modric and he’d use the outside of his foot to play and excellent ball out to the opposite wing. Suddenly after having to defend for a lengthy period they were now on a counter attack.

Winger Ivan Perisic played to his strengths and to England’s weaknesses. The Inter Milan man started to come in more from the wing and use his strength and height to alienate Kyle Walker, allowing him to score and assist in the winner.

You then had full-back Sime Vrsaljko, who was meant to be carrying an injury, coming up and down the right touchline giving his all for the full 120 minutes!

So can they beat France and win the World Cup?

Well you’d be foolish to bet against them.

They’ll come into the match as second favourites but when you look at their performances against Argentina and England, they’ve played at their best as perceived underdogs.

You can’t discount a team that has the likes of Modric, Perisic, Mario Mandzukic, Dejan Lovren, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Rakitic in it?

They have given their all in this tournament and now they need to go out there and put everything on the line one last time.

They’ve clearly got the hunger and desire to make Croatia world champions but in France they could be meeting their biggest test yet. It will be about staying tight, taking your chances and holding onto the result. You can’t say Croatia aren’t capable of doing that!

 

Rangers Still Need To Bring In An Experienced Forward

Rangers started their season on Thursday and the Scottish Premiership side managed to grab a two nil win over Macedonian side FC Shkupi at Ibrox in their opening Europa League fixture.

New Gers boss Steven Gerrard took positives from his side’s performance:

“There are a lot of positives to take from the game. We have won it, we got the clean sheet and I thought we defended really well.”

One thing Gerrard will be hoping for is that his forward players manage to become more ruthless as the season goes on.

In particular, Alfredo Morelos and Josh Windass weren’t at their best in front of goal and seemed to lack match sharpness (understandable given it was just their first competitive match).

Now I believe both will pick up when the domestic season begins and they’ll soon be back amongst the goals but when you look at the Rangers squad you feel that the new gaffer would still like to add an experienced hitman to his ranks.

In terms of out and out strikers, Colombian Morelos still looks to be the best within the squad. He’s still young, just turning twenty-two in the summer, and he has a lot of strengths within his game. But as we saw last season El Bufalo does go through lean spells.

Gerrard has brought in twenty-one year old forward Umar Sadiq on a season long loan from AS Roma. The Nigerian under-23 international enjoyed a loan spell at NAC Breda last term, scoring five goals in twelve Eredivisie games but he’s still pretty raw and might need time to find his feet in Scotland.

Zak Rudden did well when he came on in a recent friendly win over Bury but at eighteen years of age, you can’t imagine he’ll be used regularly in the first team next season.

The most experienced forward in the Gers squad is Eduardo Herrera. The twenty-nine year old Mexican wasn’t overly impressive in his debut season and it’s thought that the club are trying to offload the striker this summer.

So looking at it, you’ve got to believe that Rangers are a bit bare up-top and need an elder statesman that can help the youngsters throughout the upcoming campaign.

They’ve had it in recent seasons with Kenny Miller but with the veteran leaving the club under a cloud and now managing at Livingston there’s no longer an elder statesman to help lead the line.

During their preseason trip to Spain, Gerrard said it was an area they were looking at improving upon:

“When a legend goes out the door, and someone as good as Kenny Miller, whose been a goal scorer throughout his career, it’s a very difficult void to fill. Big shoes to fill.

“So it’s important that we try to get that one right. It is an area we’re looking at.”

On Thursday, you could see that the team lacked composure and possibly height in the frontline.

It’ll be interesting to see who Steven Gerrard brings in to give his side more experience in the forward positions.

You Can See Why Man United Are Still Keen On Croatian Star Ivan Perisic

It’s being reported that Manchester United could be back in for Inter Milan attacker Ivan Perisic after the Croatian helped down England in their recent World Cup semi-final.

Man United boss Jose Mourinho really wanted to bring the winger to Old Trafford last summer but couldn’t do a deal with his former Italian employers.

The Red Devils boss has since come out and explained why he was interested in Ivan:

‘Perisic is the kind of winger that is different to the others,’ 

‘Normally you look at wingers and they are just fast and creative.’

‘But he is also physical, very physical. Fantastic in the air.’

His performances for Croatia will have done nothing to dampen Mourinho’s admiration of the player. He’s bagged two goals and one assist so far for his nation in Russia.

Perisic works extremely hard for his team, a quality that he shares with most of his compatriots.

In the game against England, Ivan Perisic was extremely influential in getting Croatia through. He majestically equalised with a fine opportunistic finish and then his considerable leap meant he could flick on an assist for Mario Mandzukic’s winner.

He’s an intelligent player, who times his runs perfectly and that creates a host of problems for the opposition. His strength also make it difficult for full-backs to shrug him off of the ball.

Another major quality that makes him an ideal signing for Man United is his delivery into the box. He has a wicked cross on him and it usually comes in with pinpoint accuracy. You can imagine that Romelu Lukaku would be delighted if he had Ivan on the wings feeding him chance after chance.

Perisic is also a versatile forward who can play on either wing or as a number ten. He seems to be best on the left and United have had issues on that side with Alexis Sanchez not settling out there since his arrival in January. Having the twenty-nine year old on the left wing would allow the Chilean attacker to go in the middle playing behind Lukaku.

In Serie A last term, the Croat international ended the campaign with twelve goals and nine assists for teammates. Those stats helped him win five man of the match awards and more importantly it saw Inter finish in the Champions League positions.

With Anthony Martial stating (through his agent) that he wants to leave Old Trafford this summer, it would make sense for Mourinho to bring in another attacking wideman and it would also seem logical that he’d go back in for a player he clearly admires.

Many a United fan were left unconvinced by the pursuit of Perisic last summer, they didn’t see the need for another winger. Yet after this World Cup and with some of the problems they had in the wide areas last term, they’d probably be delighted to have an impactful star come in and offer something different on the lefthand side.

Will Manchester United go all in and offer £50m plus in this window? Will Inter want to sell one of their creative talents as they head into the Champions League? Will the player want to make a move to the Premier League

These are all questions that will need to be answered in the coming weeks!

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers – First Impressions

New Rangers manager Steven Gerrard watched on as his new side took to the field in their first competitive match under his guardianship.

It might have been against unknown opponents Macedonian outfit FC Shkupi in the Europa League’s opening qualifying round but the home crowd were out in force to see what Gerrard and his new team could produce.

The early signs were good as The Gers looked comfortable at the back, pressed high up and always looked to get the ball out wide and then into the penalty area.

In fairness to the Macedonian’s they didn’t wilt under the early pressure or the heavy noise coming from the Govan terraces. They slowed the game down, stayed patient and then created the first real chance when Gers captain James Tavernier was caught out of position and a Shkupi attacker hit the bar from a shot on the left.

Rangers then took the lead in the twenty first minute as new permanent signing Jamie Murphy managed to slam the ball home from the lefthand side. The Glasgow giants deserved the goal advantage as they were the hungrier team and were the side on the ascendancy.

You could tell early on that Scott Arfield is a thinker in midfield. He seems to be constantly on the move, looking to get in between the lines and when on the ball he looks to set up efficient attacks.

The Gers goal clearly unsettled their opponents and they struggled to regain their composure as Rangers started to find more passes and create more chances.

As the first-half came to a close, Rangers failed to capitalised on some very good opportunities and it was just 1-0 to the home side as the two teams went into the changing room areas.

Steven Gerrard would’ve been happy with the intent and the work-rate that his players showed in the first forty-five minutes. They rarely looked threatened at the back but complacent moments from Tavernier and new boy Nikola Katic would’ve been a sight concern for the new Gers coaching team.

Ross McCrorie looked more comfortable in the defensive midfield role but you get the feeling that one of Jordan Rossiter, Ryan Jack or Lassana Coulibaly will get that role on a more regular basis.

A rogue sprinkler only delayed the inevitable by a few minutes as Rangers came out and attacked right from the off in the second half. But much like in the opening period, FC Shkupi started to get on the ball more and add some pressure to the Gers backline.

For the opening fifteen minutes of the second half, Rangers looked out of sorts and were playing things at a more pedestrian pace. You could tell it was their first competitive outing of the campaign. They weren’t using the wide areas (as they did in the first half) or getting the ball in forward areas quickly enough.

When they finally started using their width again it almost made an instant impact as a Tavernier cross was headed over by Josh Windass, who then missed another chance shortly after as he could get enough on the ball to direct a drag back towards the opponent’s goal.

Connor Goldson looks to be a calming influence at centre-half. He wasn’t flustered at the back and dealt with any issues that came his way with minimal fuss. The twenty-five year old former Brighton man was also a threat from set-pieces with his aerial ability.

Substitute Liverpool loanee Ovie Ejaria should’ve had a penalty but the German referee decided that there wasn’t enough contact as the midfielder seemed to be fouled inside the penalty box.

Youngster Glenn Middleton then came on and his direct running managed to get the cheers from the Ibrox faithful.

Murphy managed to win a penalty in injury time for a challenge that looked weaker than the one Ejaria was  ignored for. New club captain James Tavernier didn’t hesitate from the spot and hammered it home giving the Scottish Premiership side a two goal lead for next week.

All in all, it’s hard to really judge this new Gers team of Gerrard’s. They did the basics well and the manager will also be pleased with the cleansheet, especially with a new keeper and defence starting the game.

With so many new faces and so little game time prior to this match, it’s clear that the squad still needs time  to gel.

They’ll be disappointed that they couldn’t score more as they created enough chances to put the tie to bed. As it stands a two goal advantage can still be a nervy one to take to Macedonia, especially if Shkupi score early in the second leg.

The Rangers side simply weren’t ruthless enough, lacked a cutting edge and didn’t seem to have enough creative imagination.

Steven Gerrard will be hoping that the goals will come as the team starts to find it’s feet.

Getting the victory and keeping a cleansheet was the target for the new Gers gaffer and he was able to send the support home happy with this 2-0 victory.

More in-depth judging of this team will come in the future as the tougher games arrive.

Fulham Have Got A Real Gem In Jean-Michael Seri

Fulham have not wasted anytime in bringing in a top class reinforcement as they prepare for life in the Premier League, after spending the last four years away from the English top flight.

In signing Jean-Michael Seri, The Cottagers have managed to bring in a midfielder with superb pedigree.

During the last twelve months the Ivorian has been linked with moves to Barcelona, Liverpool, PSG, Manchester United and Chelsea. Supposedly Barca had gone as far as agreeing a deal with OGC Nice for the player last summer before getting cold feet at the last minute and pulling out of the transfer.

Yet it’s Fulham that have finally taken the plunge and signed the player on a four deal, for a reported fee of £25m.

Seri told his new club’s website that he can’t wait to get started:

“I’m delighted to be here, it’s a new adventure that starts for me and I’m hoping it will all go well.”

The South London side are getting a player who has been described as the ‘African Xavi’.

The Spanish maestro once said of Jean-Michael:

“He is fantastic. He has what they call the Barca DNA. No doubt.”

High praise indeed.

Seri was a huge influence at Nice and he helped guide the Cote d’Azur club to their third placed finish in Ligue 1 in 2017. During that term he scored seven goals and created nine assists.

In the last campaign, he scored two and created five in the French top tier. He managed over 90% in the passing success rate charts and Fulham will see keeping the ball as a vital way of keeping the ball out of their own net next season.

Predominantly he’s a deep-laying playmaker and as you’d expect he has great vision, possesses a terrific passing range and likes to dictate the tempo of the game. Seri is all about creating chances for his team and he’s got a keen eye for doing just that! The twenty-six year old is also an excellent set-piece taker.

He’s not as strong on the defensive side of things, Jean-Michael won’t win you many tackles or headers but he does get around the pitch and harry opponents into making mistakes. Plus let’s not forget that he’s more of a creative spark rather than being a midfield destroyer.

So why would such a talent choose Fulham? It’s not 2001 after all (when Fulham regularly raided Ligue 1 for stars).

Well all the talk of big interest failed to materialise into concrete bids or getting Seri to sign on the dotted line. You simply can’t wait for ever.

Fulham returning to the Premier League and being in London will have probably helped him make the decision. He’ll also join the newly promoted side, knowing he can go straight into the starting eleven and make an impact. If he shines in the English top flight with them, then maybe then the bigger clubs will make serious offers.

The move shows you how foreign players treat the Premier League as a competition that they’re desperate to play in.

I really believe that Fulham have managed to bring in a top star in Jean-Michael Seri and I hope the Ivory Coast international can prove himself at Craven Cottage and show what a talent he really is!